Thursday, 17 March 2016

"You just gotta come here!"

What to say about Palau? Well, firstly, it’s been a busy season. We have had a lot of trips, which means a lot of diving. And that is no bad thing. The diving here is as you would expect from Palau’s reputation. Exceptional!
So why is the diving here so amazing? Diversity is one of its key features. In a 6 diving day schedule, you can dive wrecks, caverns, reefs, walls and corners. You can swim casually along pristine hard coral gardens, drift through beautiful channels, hook in on strong current corner dives  and so on. It makes for an epic liveaboard because you never get bored. And this is all before you mention the marine life.
"Giving dive briefing"
I have honestly never seen so many sharks. And I’m not just talking about reef sharks. This season so far we have managed to see nine different types of shark. Palau’s status as the world’s first shark sanctuary is well deserved. Having been very lucky in my dive career in being able to dive some of the world’s top dive destinations, Palau has to be number one so far for large marine life. There is something very special about being hooked on a corner in a strong current, surrounded by anywhere up to fifty grey reef sharks.
  Pelagic life here is wonderful, and such a pleasure to see. It is definitely a “big stuff”, “wide angle” dive destination. There are huge schools of fish, hunting tuna, turtles and mantas to name just a few. And thanks to restricted fishing practices, a lot of the fish can be found on the dive sites. Also, because a lot of the marine life doesn’t perceive you as a predator it means if you move slowly and gently, you can almost kiss the fish they get so close.

Palau does lack macro life though. It is here, but there isn’t a lot of it. You can see nudibranchs, ghost pipefish and candy crabs, plus orang-utan crabs and pygmy seahorses. But it isn’t in abundance, and you really have to hunt for it. We also have it on good authority that there used to be a frogfish. There is so much other life to see here though, that the lack of macro doesn’t really affect the diving.
So yeah, the diving is pretty epic. And MV Solitude One has to be the nicest boat I have worked on. With a maximum of twenty two guests, this converted fishing research vessel feels super spacious, even when full. At no point does the full quota of guests, plus twenty crew make the boat feel crowded. And a boat doesn’t run without its crew. All of whom are awesome and so much fun to work with. There is always a lot of laughter.

The huge dive deck will definitely make an impression. There is a comfortable lounge area, spacious digital room for setting up your camera equipment, dining area, sundeck and Jacuzzi. The cabins vary in size depending on your budget, but all are spacious (for a boat), and very comfortable.
So I know this sounds a lot like “sales pitch”, but honestly, it really is worth the trip. The drawbacks (as there always are some) are that it isn’t an easy place to get to. All the flights are red eye, and arrive very early in the morning. The internet connections at present are super slow, but they do work and are an improvement on last year. Everything is imported, so most things are not cheap to buy. But the scenery is beautiful and the people are lovely.

Palau lacks good night dives. Because there is limited macro life, they can’t compete with other top class destinations. The water temperature can vary a lot too. Mostly it is a comfortable 29c, but it can drop as low as 18c at times with cold oceanic currents. That can make hook in dives feels a bit cold, as you aren’t swimming around a lot.
"Commuting for work"

Any of Palau’s drawbacks don’t outweigh its amazing advantages. It really is a little bit of diving heaven. Personally, the season has had its ups and downs. I have had some amazing dives, and ticked some things off the bucket list of what I want to see underwater. But I’ve also broken some toes and had a mistaken case of DCS and recurrent ear issues. But overall, it’s been worth every second!
Written by Scott Lindsay Diveguide & Scuba Instructor

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